The film world lost one of its most eclectic voices on April 26 with the death of Jonathan Demme. The director was best known for his classic horror film The Silence of the Lambs, but his resume also included dramas like Philadelphia and The Manchurian Candidate to music documentaries like Stop Making Sense and Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids. Demme’s films won numerous awards during his four decades in the industry.
He is survived by his wife, Joanne Howard, and his three children. The family has asked that donations be made to Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami. The cause of death was esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease. He was first treated in 2010, but suffered a recurrence in 2015.
Despite Demme’s long career in Hollywood, many of the awards he won were for one film – 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. The film is one of only three movies to ever win all five of the major Oscars, winning Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress.
The first film Demme directed that caught the attention of the Academy Awards was Melvin And Howard, which won Mary Steenburgen her Best Supporting Actress award. The film also won Best Original Screenplay for Bo Goldman. Demme’s 1993 film Philadelphia, the story of a lawyer suing his firm after he was fired for having AIDS, earned Tom Hanks his first of two consecutive Best Actor Oscars.
Although Demme continued directing until shortly before his death, making Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep in 2015, his final film to earn an Oscar nomination was Rachel Getting Married. The 2008 film was seen as a return to form for Demme and earned Anne Hathaway an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Here are the major awards Demme personally won for his films:
Academy Awards: Best Director, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Golden Globes: Best Director – Motion Picture, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
BAFTA Awards: Best Direction; Best Film, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Berlin international Film Festival: Silver Berlin Bear for Best Director, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Gotham Independent Film Award: Best Documentary, The Agronomist (2003); Filmmaker Award (1991)
National Board of Review: Best Director, The Silence of the Lambs (1991); Billy Wilder Award (2006)
Venice Film Festival: EIUC Award, Biografilm Award & FIPRESCI Prize for Jimmy Carter Man from Plains (2007); Persol Tribute Visionary Talent Award (2015)
National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA: Best Documentary, Stop Making Sense (1985)
Here is the complete list of Oscars Demme’s films won and were nominated for:
Melvin And Howard (1980)
Best Supporting Actress – Mary Steenburgen
Best Original Screenplay – Bo Goldman
Best Supporting Actor – Jason Robards (Nomination)
Swing Shift (1984)
Best Supporting Actress – Christine Lahti (Nomination)
Married to the Mob (1988)
Best Supporting Actor – Dean Stockwell (Nomination)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Best Picture – Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt, Ronald M. Bozman
Best Actor – Anthony Hopkins
Best Actress – Jodie Foster
Best Director – Jonathan Demme
Best Adapted Screenplay – Ted Tally
Best Sound – Tom Fleischman & Christopher Newman (Nomination)
Best Editing – Craig McKay (Nomination)
Best Actor – Tom Hanks
Best Original Song – Bruce Springsteen
Best Original Song – Neil Young (Nomination)
Best Original Screenplay – Ron Nyswaner (Nomination)
Best Makeup – Carl Fullerton, Alan D’Angerio (Nomination)
Best Costume Design – Colleen Atwood (Nomination)
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Best Actress – Anne Hathaway (Nomination)